This year will go down in history as the one that turned everything we thought we knew about our working lives on its head permanently. The fundamental parts of our lives that make us who we are—school, work, community—have seemingly changed overnight and for an unforeseen amount of time. Our work lives and personal lives have become one. Our commute is the distance between our bed and the desk and, for many people, every day is bring-your-kid-to-work day.
Living in quarantine is taking a toll on everyone. For many of us, the days feel denser. A change of scenery in a studio apartment looks like moving from one wall to another. We’re running out of light small talk to start meetings or ways to recharge ourselves from one day to the next, not to mention how small our day-to-day can feel when compared with the gut-wrenching headlines we’ve come to accept as normal.
Yet, we evolve.
We carefully design virtual offsite meetings for a team of 25. We create mindfulness routines to manage stress. We teach our fifth graders in between meetings. We figure out how to find a job during a global pandemic. We figure little things out that help. We share best practices with friends. We learn.
Things won’t be going “back to normal” ever if normal is “the way things were.” The skills we’ve honed the past few months have the potential to help us build a new normal that’s recentered around what we’ve discovered matters most. Here is what the data tells us about what’s top of mind as we enter the new era of work.
Connection and community are vital to our happiness and well-being
Since the onset of COVID-19 made us all socially distanced, we’ve seen a 1,100% increase in people coming together in learning groups to learn new skills. This is even higher for young people, many of whom are trying to enter the workforce as many companies are on hiring freezes or navigating the murky waters of reentry. Gen Z is leaning into social learning at the highest rate with a 1,378% growth in using learning groups (comparing Oct-Feb vs March-July).
We don’t traditionally think of online learning as social, but the fact that social learning is on the rise makes sense. Communication and connection are essential for our well-being. In the virtual world, we’re still figuring out how to get what we need. In fact, data shows as the pandemic goes on, employees are beginning to feel less connected to their leaders (31% of respondents), teammates (37%), and even their friends (40%).
Simultaneously, as a global community, we’re being asked to look at the ways we interact with each other, listen, unlearn, and take action to stand up against racial injustice. Skills like emotional intelligence, effective listening, communication, and critical thinking to challenge the status quo are necessities in today’s world and workplace more than ever before. In fact, the vice president of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix and instructor Verna Myers’ course Confronting Bias: Thriving Across Our Differences saw a 572% increase in people watching it in July 2020 compared to May 2020.
It’s also no surprise that in the past year, Dorie Clark’s course on Improving Your Listening has risen from #185 on our Most Popular Courses list to #15. Among other things, it teaches that rather than listening to respond, we’re listening to understand—a distinction that’s essential to any productive conversation.
Prioritizing self-care has never been more important
It’s important to establish boundaries when we work from home. We can do this by establishing a home base, crafting your schedule in a way that takes advantage of your peak performance and personal schedule, and communicating productively with our teammates. And for parents and caregivers, it’s important to manage boundaries and make a plan for interruptions and emergencies.
As such, it’s no surprise our top courses right now show that people have spent time learning to be more productive remotely, create work-life balance, and communicate with virtual teams.
Take lifelong learner and leader, Rickie Singleton. As a leader of a large team the past three months, he found that to be the person his employees need right now, he needed to prioritize his self-care to be the leader his employees need. Making time for courses like Time Management and Improving your Listening Skills helped him do that. What’s more, sharing learning courses with his network has been an effective way to spark meaningful dialogue, get advice from others, and encourage others to spend time learning alongside him.
For nurses on the frontlines, learning is self-care. The Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation with long-time partner Sigma recently conducted a two-month-long pilot of giving access to LinkedIn Learning to one hundred early career nurses. The results affirmed that building fundamental personal leadership and resilience skills (courses that touch on leading without formal authority, communication, and conflict resolution, for example) were critical to their professional success. The average rate of completion for this group was 80%. Despite the pilot running concurrent to the pandemic, 100% of nurses noted that the program was worth their time, with some noting that few courses provided them with “just-in-time” skills to advocate for PPE or other COVID-19 related training.
Learning trending skills will be core to navigating a tough, dynamic job market
We’ve experienced a tectonic shift in the labor market, and global hiring trends are changing weekly. Even though some industries like healthcare and online retail have maintained growth, one in five Americans has now filed for unemployment benefits.
We see professionals continue to sharpen essential hard skills relevant across functions, like Excel and project management while doubling down on interest in technical skills like Python—a course that ranks in our top five most popular courses globally this year, with the proportion of total job postings looking for professionals with Python skills up 29% year over year.
We also see this at the company level. With certain professionals unable to do their traditional, in-person roles, the ability to identify transferable skills and reskill current workers is setting companies apart. Facing store closures to keep retail employees safe during the pandemic, leaders at Verizon for example saw an opportunity to identify relevant transferable skills of those employees. They were then able to reskill those employees with curated learning and offer them roles in in-demand departments like telesales or customer service to weather the pandemic.
Learning doesn’t end after school or college, and the renewed uptick in learning certainly will outlive the pandemic. It’s the key to helping workers stay productive and happy right now, and will be instrumental in turning our permanently altered labor market and workplace into one that’s even more efficient, empathetic, and human.
Dan Brodnitz is head of Global Content Strategy at LinkedIn Learning.